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The French-speaking part of Switzerland is shown in green on this map.
Map of the Arpitan language area, historical language spoken in Romandie, with place names in arpitan and historic political divisions.

Swiss French (French: français de Suisse) is the variety of French spoken in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as Romandy. French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland, the others being German, Italian, and Romansch. As of 2015, around 2 million people in the country (24.4% of the population) spoke French as their primary language and around 29.1% of the population has working knowledge of French.[1]

The French language spoken in Switzerland differs very little from that of France or Belgium, with minor and mostly lexical differences. This is in contrast to differences between Standard German and Swiss German, in which differences create mutual unintelligibility between speakers of the two forms to the point that they are considered different languages.

The Swiss variant of French is characterized by some terms adopted from Franco-Provençal, a language formerly spoken largely across the alpine communities of Romandie and maintained by a minority today, as well as expressions borrowed from Swiss and Standard German. While Standard French is taught in schools and used in government, media, and business, there is no uniform vernacular form of French among the different cantons of Switzerland. This is exemplified by the usage of borrowed terms from German in regions bordering German-speaking communities to their complete absence by the French border area around Geneva.[2]

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Differences between Swiss French and standard FrenchEdit

Many differences between Swiss French and French are due to the different administrative and political systems between Switzerland and France. Some of its distinctive lexical features are shared with Belgian French (and some also with Quebec French), such as:

  • The use of the word septante for seventy and nonante for ninety as opposed to soixante-dix (literally 'sixty-ten') and quatre-vingt-dix (literally 'four twenties-ten') of the "vigesimal" French counting system.
  • The use of the word déjeuner for "breakfast" ("lunch" in France, which uses petit déjeuner for "breakfast"), and of the words le dîner and le souper for "lunch" and "dinner" respectively (in French of France, déjeuner and dîner respectively), much like the varying uses of dinner and supper throughout the English-speaking world.

Other examples which are not shared with other varieties of French:

  • The word huitante is sometimes used for eighty instead of quatre-vingts (literally 'four twenties'), especially in the cantons of Vaud, Valais and Fribourg; the term octante (from the Latin octaginta) is now considered defunct.
  • The word canton has a different meaning in each country; in Switzerland, a canton is a constituent state of the Confederation, whereas in France, it is grouping of communes in Belgium, it is a group of municipalities, while in Quebec, it is a township municipality.
  • In France, a post office box is called a boite postale (BP),[3] whereas in Switzerland (as in French Canada), it is called a case postale (CP).[4]
  • In colloquial Swiss French, the word "natel" is used for "phone". So, "I didn't take my phone" becomes "Je n'ai pas pris mon natel". French people use the word "portable" or simply "telephone".
  • Sometimes the differences are not in the words but in certain ways for expressing specific actions or desires. For example, Swiss people often say "T'arrives à me passer mon pull ?" literally meaning "Are you able to give me my pullover?" whereas the French use the structure "Tu peux me passer le pull ?".

Examples of words that differ between Swiss French and Standard FrenchEdit

Swiss French Standard French English Notes
action promotion special offer
adieu salut hello/goodbye In French, "adieu" means "farewell" and is generally never used except in cases where the people concerned will not meet again. In Switzerland it is used as an informal general form of greeting when people meet or leave each other.
attique dernier étage top floor
bancomat Distributeur automatique de billets ATM
biffer rayer/barrer quelque chose d'écrit (to) scratch/delete
bobet crétin (noun) or bête/stupide (adjective) idiot (noun) or stupid (adjective)
boguet mobylette moped
bonnard sympa or bien nice
bonne-main pourboire tip (gratuity) Literally "good-hand".
borne hydrante bouche d'incendie fire hydrant
bourbine suisse-allemand Swiss-German This word is considered pejorative.
mascogner tricher aux examens cheat during exams
carnotzet cave à vin/cellier/fumoir Wine cellar This expression can sometimes be found in France, at places close to Switzerland.
chenis désordre mess
chiquelette chewing-gum chewing-gum
collège (Genève, Valais, Fribourg) or gymnase (Vaud) lycée high school
crousille tirelire money
cornet sac en plastique plastic bag In France, "cornet" would typically designate an ice cream cone.
cutips coton-tige cotton bud/swab Antonomasia from the brand Q-tips which phonetically becomes "cutips" when pronounced in French.
cycle (Genève, Fribourg, Valais) collège middle school
déjeuner petit-déjeuner breakfast Meal names are shifted in Swiss French, meaning that the name for lunch is used for breakfast, the one for dinner is used for lunch and the French equivalent of the word "supper" is used for dinner.
dent de lion pissenlit dandelion
dîner déjeuner lunch Meal names are shifted in Swiss French, meaning that the name for lunch is used for breakfast, the one for dinner is used for lunch and the French equivalent of the word "supper" is used for dinner.
duvet couette comforter "Duvet" comes from the fact that comforters used to be filled with down feather (duvet). "Duvet" in France means sleeping bag, for similar reasons.
s'encoubler se prendre les pieds dans quelque chose/trébucher to trip over
s'énuquer se briser la nuque to break a neck
étude d'avocats cabinet d'avocats law firm
faire la noce faire la fête to party This expression can also be found in Standard French even though it is probably less used or used predominantly by old people.
fœhn sèche-cheveux hairdryer The name "fœhn" comes from the Foehn wind.
frouz les Français people from France - French This word is considered pejorative.
fonds terrain or champs field
fourre dossier/housse folder In French, "fourrer" means "to stuff".
galetas grenier attic Also used in Alpine regions of France, down to Dauphiné.
giratoire rond-point, giratoire roundabout Comes from "carrefour à sens giratoire" which would translate to "circular crossroads".
gouille flaque puddle
huitante quatre-vingts eighty In Swiss French, as opposed to French, the words for seventy, eighty and ninety are similar in construction to the ones used for thirty up to sixty.
linge serviette towel In French, "linge" is a generic word that refers to clothing, bed sheets and towels.
lolette tétine pacifier/teat
maman de jour assistante maternelle day care assistant
maturité baccalauréat high-school final examination
natel (téléphone) portable mobile phone
mutr mère mother Comes from the German word for "Mother", "Mutter".
nom de bleu ! nom de dieu ! in the name of god!/god dammit!
nonante quatre-vingts-dix ninety In Swiss French, as opposed to French, the words for seventy, eighty and ninety are similar in construction to the ones used for thirty up to sixty.
panosse serpillière floorcloth or mop
papier ménage papier essuie-tout paper towel
pive pomme de pin conifer cone
poutzer nettoyer to clean Comes from the German word "putzen" which means "to clean".
Procès verbal d'examen (PV) bulletin de note report card
réclame publicité advertisement "Réclame" is an older disused word for advertising in French.
régie agence immobilière real estate agent
roye pluie rain
royer pleuvoir to rain
sans autre sans plus attendre without delay
santé à tes/vos souhaits bless you (when someone sneezes)
septante soixante-dix seventy In Swiss French, as opposed to French, the words for seventy, eighty and ninety are similar in construction to the ones used for thirty up to sixty.
service je t'en/vous en prie you're welcome From "à votre service" meaning "at your service".
services couverts cutlery
signofile/indicateur clignotant indicator/turn signal (motor vehicle)
souper dîner dinner Meal names are shifted in Swiss French, meaning that the name for lunch is used for breakfast, the one for dinner is used for lunch and the French equivalent of the word "supper" is used for dinner.
tablard étagère shelf
talus pente slope
uni (short word for université) fac (short word for faculté) university
votation scrutin voting
vatr père father Comes from the German word for "Father", "Vater".

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit